Friday, July 6, 2012

Review - Lightning Literature British Lit Early--Mid 19th Century

Lightning Literature & Composition
British Lit: Early -- Mid 19th Century
Hewitt homeschooling

Web site: 

Price:  Student Guide - $29.95, Teacher's Guide - $2.95

Age:  High School

Even though I majored in English in college, literature is not my thing.  Sure, my degree allowed me to read a lot of lit, but when it comes to teaching my focus is in the technical writing arena.  So…  That being said…  Teaching literature is a challenge. 
Lightening Literature is a familiar name – our homeschool co-op used Lightening Lit for American Literature a few years ago.  This year, my older son will be taking British Lit.  So, that’s the edition I chose to review.

Student's Guide

First, I love the selections of literature chosen by Hewitt for all of their editions.  For Early to Mid-19th Century British Lit, students read poetry by William Blake, Pride and Prejudice, Ivanhoe, “Essay on Scott” by Carlyle, Romantic poets, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, and short story by Thackeray.  With the exception of the novels, the readings are included in the text.
Second, the format makes sense.  Read, respond, react.  Each unit starts with information about the time period and/or the author.  This information is a good background for starting with the literature.  In addition, each unit addresses different concepts of literature like tone, characterization, etc.  Again, important information that helps the reader understand why the writer used the approach he did.  While I appreciate the information given, I would love to see it provided in a different media like online audio or movie as well as in the text.  This would appeal to the different learning styles out there.

The comprehension questions provided with each work for the students are really intended to help them to engage with the literature and contemplate meaning both superficial and deep.  However, my sons are not likely to put a lot of thought into their responses if they are doing this just for me.  My older son says it feels more like busy work.  That being said, in a group setting where students are bringing their responses and discussing them as well as being evaluated by another teacher, he would be apt to provide more detail.  That’s really the rub with literature and homeschool – getting our students to embrace the process even if it means only mom will be the audience. 
Finally, the Writing Exercises, I felt, were well developed.  The prompts provide a range of approaches to dealing with the readings.  Each set of exercises for the Unit provide several options for writing from narrative to dialogue to report writing.  This allows the student to handle the material and develop a paper in a format he is most comfortable with.  My son doesn’t like creative writing – he avoids narratives like the plague.  However, he did like the opportunity to analyze aspects of the story.   

You can view a sample chapter here to see how the program is laid out. 

Teacher's Guide
The accompanying teacher’s guide provides a wealth of information for helping a parent work through Brit Lit with a student.  Checklists help a parent know what to look for in Nonfiction and Fiction papers as well as poetry.  These checklists help breakdown what aspects of the paper should be assessed like “Is there a reasonable flow to the piece?” Aspects that come natural to an English teacher but not necessarily to a homeschooling parent.  Additional grading tips help the parent have a better understanding of how to evaluate the writing.  Further, grading templates are provided to help distribute points and come to a fair graded evaluation of the student’s effort for each unit.
Hewitt has provided both a Semester and a Year-long schedule for the text.  Each week is elaborated out to show the pace and the expectation depending on the duration selected.  I have to say – this I really appreciate!  Not only does it give a parent the sense of how much should be covered, but it provides a clear way to set expectations for the student.

Next, answers to all of the comprehension questions are provided.  While this does allow the parent to check the student’s work without having read the literature, I would strongly recommend the parent read the literature before or along with the student so that the responses make sense and can be further discussed.  Additionally, if the parent reads at the same pace, he/she can further engage the student and help apply the reading to aspects of learning in other areas like history or art.
Finally, the Writing Exercises along with additional project suggestions are included.  Parent and student should discuss each exercise to ensure that the student selects a broad range of writing approaches to get the most out of both the literature and the exercise of writing.  I find the teaching guide to be an excellent tool!

Overall, I really like Lightening Literature and Composition.  The key will be coming to an understanding with your student(s) that this is a journey where the amount of effort put into it will equate to the value gotten out of it.  If the student will embrace the idea of really answering the comprehension questions to the best of his/her ability and work to fully develop each writing activity, then the learning value will be great.  I really like this approach for a small group or co-op situation where accountability and conversation will enhance the experience.
To see other reviews by the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew - click here.
*** Disclaimer:  I received the Lightning Literature Student and Teacher Guides free of charge as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting - I love to hear your thoughts!